by Dimakatso Komape
Former president Jacob Zuma’s appearance before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry for the past three days caused a wide spread stir across the country. The inquiry started off with somewhat of a ‘disclaimer’ from the former president’s lawyer, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane. Adv. Sikhakhane clearly voiced his disapproval with how the State Capture inquiry handles their witnesses. This was then followed by a little argument between the former president’s representative and the commission council for the inquiry. This was needless to say that it was the introduction for the dramatic and lengthy monologue that the former president delivered on the first day of the inquiry and the drama that was going to follow within in the net days.
Jacob Zuma gave us a grand narrative on why he has been victimised and basically harassed all these years. He gave a background of how this all started, taking us back to 1990 in his days of being the head of intelligence. The former president stated that there were people who did not want him to be part of the ANC government and even went as far as offering him an ‘early retirement’ to go back to Nkandla. He further explained that this was offered to him because they knew that he had incriminating information that implicated ANC veterans that were dealing with the apartheid government and the incidents that happened around that.
The concerning thing that I noticed throughout his narrative was that it seemed as if he believed all that he was saying. He seemed very adamant about proving that he was targeted, for about three decades, just so that his reputation would be tarnished. This is very concerning because this person resembling some sort of paranoia was once the president of a country.
When it comes down to it he did not know how to run a country. There were clear structural issues that he did not or could not address. He completely denied everything that all the other witnesses said about him. The only “concession” made by Zuma was that he had played an initiating role in the Guptas’ establishment of The New Age newspaper and ANN7 TV station, although he made it clear that the ANC’s then secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, and later the ANC’s Top Six were informed about the project. Once again, Zuma probably knew that this issue would attract a great deal of media attention, thus drawing attention away from the commission’s main task, namely to unravel the corruption that accompanied the “State Capture project”.
That second day of former president Jacob Zuma’s testimony at the commission of inquiry was not short of its drama. The inquiry started off with the former president saying that his personal assistant had received a call the previous night threatening to kill Zuma, his children and the people around him. I know this makes great television. Zuma and his legal team had by then started to effectively frustrate the process by not giving substantial and meaningful replies to the questions asked. The second day of the inquiry felt like a game of jotting Zuma’s recollection of what happened and a series of the classical throat clearing.
This was no different to what happened on the third day of the inquiry as well. On the third day, Zuma’s legal team threatened to withdraw him from testifying, with Adv. Sikhakhane saying that his client was being cross-examined on hearsay testimony. What was meant to be a 30-minute recess to discuss a possible withdrawal turned into an hour-long deliberation between the commission’s legal team and Zuma’s legal team on whether the former president would continue giving his testimony or not. This was just a manifestation of a prediction that a lot of people had. Don’t forget that on the first day of the inquiry Zuma painted himself as the victim. This was expected to happen.
After the deliberation, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo adjourned the commission of inquiry until Friday after former president Zuma’s legal team complained that their client had been brought under false pretences. This to me was just another one of Zuma’s plot twist to this drama in which he is the leading act. Zondo said this decision was taken to give the former president and the commission’s legal team an opportunity to find a way to address his concerns. The commission chair said he was confident that a way forward would be found to ensure the proceeding resume.